How James Michael Tyler became Gunther on “Friends”

Written by James Michael Tyler, for CNN In Season 10, one of our favorite episodes of the show where these four friends do things, revolves around the quest for certain items. Woody leaves an…

How James Michael Tyler became Gunther on "Friends"

Written by James Michael Tyler, for CNN

In Season 10, one of our favorite episodes of the show where these four friends do things, revolves around the quest for certain items. Woody leaves an envelope with Mike in it, indicating that they should go “find something.” Mike is determined, and he finds it at a particular hotel. They go back there, meet up with a gift that Mike’s mom gave her five years earlier, and Woody returns to a particularly not-very-pleased Gunther who is, by this point, generally discontented about being in Connecticut.

For me, the most memorable moment from the episode was Gunther’s reaction to discovering that Mike’s mom gave him something at Christmas.

Gunther (James Michael Tyler) is one of the most well-known members of the cast, but he wasn’t always so. Here Tyler talks to CNN about the character and his cool side.

What is it about Gunther that makes him so unique?

I think Gunther is unique in that he seems like a really goofy and lovable character when you meet him, and I have always thought that I make him kind of an oddball. I think they have so many characters on the show and the writers have given us such diversity, it’s always cool to see them together and me playing Gunther, but there is always this cool side to him. The reason that Gunther always seems like Gunther is because he always gets away with a certain amount of stuff. He gets away with being cool, and as long as he doesn’t offend a lot of people, he doesn’t really have to do anything that a lot of other people would find really awkward.

Can you tell us a little bit about what a typical day is like?

I basically wake up, read the morning paper, make coffee, then usually lunch, and then it’s off to work. [When I wake up] it feels like that 20 or 30 minutes that we are shooting gets cut out of my day, because I never get out of the car to go to the set. It’s a five hour drive, but I never even get to see the set.

Are you a fan of other television shows like “Veep” or “Insecure”?

I can’t really watch “Veep” or “Insecure” very often, because I’m usually at work. I try to schedule it for the weekends, but I’m too tired after a long day of shooting to get out of the trailer and watch it.

Did you meet any of the cast members and learn more about their real lives and working behind the scenes of the show?

I’ve never met any of the cast members, but I am always invited to the actors’ after parties.

How would you describe the friendship you’ve established with the cast?

I think I have gotten to know a lot of the cast members pretty well. I’m always in touch with a lot of them, and they are always nice to me, and I’m always willing to take them out to lunch and hang out. Every time I am in touch with one of them, it is always great to say I was there at the time.

Do you get to do a lot of work outside of “Friends”?

I did a show called “Guys on Cars,” that I was in a couple years ago. It was a web series about two guys that are trying to do their best to get laid, and I play the cast manager. One of the main things I can do away from the set, is fly on private jets. Whenever I get a chance to do that, I take it. But when I get to go to the set, everything is fun.

You were included in TIME’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. What was your reaction to the news?

That was absolutely a surprise and a huge honor, and I was so proud to be able to be listed. It means a lot to me because my parents were my inspiration, and they feel like they are in my corner with everything that I do. They would be very surprised by my showing up on the “TIME” list, but I think they would be proud that I am being recognized in this way.

Did you consider giving back to the community when you were younger?

I did, I have always wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. I think it was through a program that I did that really changed my life. I would love to be able to give back, whether it’s to my community, or go into an educational environment, or volunteer in the world of film. I hope I have the opportunity to do that.

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